Dog-Walking Controversy May Cost Couple Their Home

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Robert Wirth, Jr., and his wife, Sandra Blaker, are appealing a court's order directing them to pay over $40,000 in a case stemming from Wirth's insistence on walking their dog without a leash in violation of homeowners-association rules.  The association has a lien on their home, and says it will foreclose if they don't pay.

According to the report, Blaker actually owns the home, and it appears that Wirth does most or all of the dog-walking.  The article did not mention anything about how she feels about all this.  I assume they share the same feelings or else things may be getting a bit awkward in that household.

In 2003, after some initial skirmishes over Wirth's refusal to leash, the association fined him and his wife $1,000.  They refused to pay, so the association filed a lien and started legal proceedings.  The case has been dragging on ever since.  Last year, a trial judge ordered the couple to pay up, and said they are also on the hook for interest, attorneys' fees and other costs, so that they owe over $40,000.  Wirth was quoted as saying that he has (or they have) also been forced to spend over $100,000 on legal fees, meaning that the potential cost of the dispute is rapidly approaching half the value of the home.

The president of the association admitted that Wirth's unfettered Labrador was well-behaved and had not caused any problems (unlike Mr. Wirth, apparently, who he described as "very difficult"), but suggested that if they made an exception for this dog then other, more ill-mannered dogs might want one, too.  You know how dogs are.

Wirth probably did not help his case by suggesting he would shoot and kill one of the board members if necessary.  He has argued he is allowed to do so under Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law," which makes "imminent peril" a justification for deadly force under certain circumstances.  See Fla. Stat. sec. 776.013.  He might want to pay for some more legal advice on that topic, although police have said they think Wirth spoke out of frustration and does not pose imminent peril to anyone.

The appeal has been pending since February 2008.

Link: St. Petersburg Times
Link: Anthony Sebok on the Florida "Stand Your Ground" Law, (May 2, 2005)